Public Defender’s Statement on International Children's Day
June 1 is International Children's Day. On this important day, I would like to tell all children living in Georgia that the Public Defender will always stand by them and protect their rights. Today, when many children live in poverty, experience violence and when their needs of health care, education and development are negelcted, it is important, as never before, to celebrate this day not only symbolically, but to take effective steps to protect the rights of the child.
We have been facing the most serious violations of children’ rights in Georgia over the years, which are mostly related to the inefficiency of support services, delayed response by the State, shortcomings in social and childcare programmes. Public attitudes towards violations of children’ rights are still mixed and children often find themelves alone agasint violence. To date, responsible agencies have failed to identify violations of children’ rights in a timely manner, to respond appropriately or to support juveniles according to their needs.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has further aggravated the situation of children’s rights. Risks of child abuse, poverty, violations of the rights to health care and education have increased. The number of minors receiving social allowance increased from 152,000 to 186,000 from January to December 2020. The remote learning process is also associated with problems, especially for children with disabilities, children living in poverty and children living in rural areas. Violence against children remains a challenge; In 2020, investigations were launched into 254 cases of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of minors.
The process of deinstitutionalization of large institutions, which started years ago in the country, has not been completed yet. There are still a number of religious boarding schools, where the monitoring carried out by the State is not complete or effective. Monitoring of the Ninotsminda boarding school is especially problematic, which remains beyond the effective state oversight.
On April 15 and May 19, 2021, representatives of the Public Defender of Georgia were not given the opportunity to study the rights situation of children in the boarding school or to meet with beneficiaries. The State has so far failed to enforce the temporary measure of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child instructing the Government to ensure monitoring of the Ninotsminda children's boarding school.
It is extremely important that government agencies show more responsibility and proactivity in preventing violence against children, responding appropriately to incidents of violence, supporting juveniles, eliminating child poverty and poor living standards, and protecting their right’s to education and health care. Protecting the rights of the child should be a priority for the State and society and all measures taken by the State should be based on the best interests and existing needs of minors.
In order to ensure proper protection of the rights of the child in the country, it is necessary to:
- Review the existing policies against child poverty, effectiveness of social and childcare programmes that often fail to meet even the basic needs of families with children living in poverty.
- Continue the deinstitutionalisation process, strengthen the state care system with both financial and human resources and ensure the monitoring of the rights situation of children in large institutions, including by the Public Defender as an independent monitoring body.
- Develop rehabilitation programmes for child victims of violence in a timely manner, actively implement preventive measures against abuse of children and ensure that the responsible agencies strengthen the system of timely and effective coordination with each other in this area.